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Decline in migration will put rural economies at risk

Migrants contribute to rural economies by filling skills gaps and labour shortages farm_workers2.png10 June 2009. New research from IPPR published today shows the crucial role that migrant workers have played in rural economies in recent years, and highlights the risks that would be faced by rural economies if migration declines in the future.

Migration to the UK is now declining, partly due to the recession.

IPPR’s research ‘Migration and Rural Economies: Assessing and addressing risks’, suggests that rural economies will be able to recruit sufficient workers in the short term, during the recession; but also finds that a shortage of workers could limit economic recovery in the medium term, particularly in certain sectors.

Tim Finch, Head of Migration at IPPR, said, “Migrants have made an important contribution to rural economies by filling skills gaps and labour shortages – if migration continues to decline, this will pose a real challenge for rural employers”.

In recent years, the number of migrants living and/or working in the British countryside has increased rapidly, particularly since the accession of new countries to the EU in 2004 and 2007. The research finds that migrants have made significant economic contributions: filling vacancies and skills gaps, and promoting job creation and productivity. Migrants have been particularly important in supporting some key sectors including agriculture, food processing, and hospitality.

Graham Russell, Executive Director at the Commission for Rural Communities, said, “Migration is often thought of as an issue for cities, but this research shows that migrants play an important role in rural economies too.

“The economic needs and prospects of rural communities must be taken into account in the Government’s migration policies and economic development planning undertaken by Regional Development Agencies and Local Authorities,” he advises.

IPPR argues that more needs to be done to ensure that employers in hospitality, food processing, agriculture and the care sector can recruit sufficient workers and that vacancies in these hard-to-fill sectors remain attractive to migrant workers.

‘Migration and Rural Economies: Assessing and addressing risks’, by Laura Chappell, Maria Latorre, Jill Rutter and Jaideep Shah can be downloaded from this link .

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